The dishes at Grant Achatz’s award-winning Chicago restaurant Alinea are entirely new, yet what diners taste often resurrects their most cherished food memories. Achatz has said that flavor is memory, and of all the ways in which Alinea appeals to the senses, it’s flavor that he has harnessed and reinvented in a kitchen that never rests on its laurels. (Although, Achatz has employed everything from smoking oak leaves to cinnamon torches to impart flavor, so who’s to say that laurel branches are out of the question?) For a menu as ambitious as Alinea’s, its cookbook incarnation is as clear a window into a chef’s creative process as you could hope for, buttressed by stunning photography and thoughtful essays from Achatz and food literati Michael Ruhlman and Jeffrey Steingarten, among others. This doesn’t mean necessarily that you’ll cook from Alinea often, or perhaps ever: the 600 recipes are composed precisely to show that any motivated cook can recreate Alinea’s dishes at home, but to do so may be missing the point. What makes Alinea remarkable–and unlike any other cookbook on the shelf–is its passionate insistence that there isn’t just one recipe for being a cook. –Anne Bartholomew
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Tags: Thomas Keller, The French Laundry, Yukon Gold, Louis François, Grant Achatz, Black Truffle Explosion, Granny Smith, Murray River, National Starch, Alinea Mosaic, Simple Syrup, unsulfured dark molasses, yellow pectin, steelhead roe, tapioca maltodextrin, gelatin sheets, black truffle juice, fresh juniper berries, elephant garlic cloves, sweet curry powder, kosher salt, percent cacao, yuzu juice, grape seed oil, glucose powder, star anise pods, fresh bay leaf, hot curry powder, gellan gum, bunch thyme, modified food starch, licorice extract, soy lecithin